This is what you need to know.
What has Morrisons been accused of?
Animal welfare charity The Open Cages has accused one of Morrisons’ main suppliers of breeding what they called “FrankenChickens”, which are birds which have been genetically engineered to grow bigger and faster than is natural.
The charity alleged that it saw chickens being kept in inhumane conditions at four intensive farms, with some birds “completely or almost unable to walk”.
A video filmed by Open Cages Chief Executive Connor Jackson whilst undercover showed distressing scenes of the conditions chickens were being kept in.
Jackson said in the video: “These chicks are born and locked into these giant factory farms. And in only 35 days are forced to grow to a monstrous size. Frankenchickens are cheap and efficient.
“Basically all cheap chicken will come from Frankenchicken breeds . People look at this footage and they will think that this is an anomaly - they’ll ask me if something illegal is happening here but no this is perfectly legal.”
A Morrisons Misery campaign has since been launched by activists and volunteers from charities Open Cages, Animal Equality UK and the Humane League UK.
The campaign states: “Morrisons claims to "take animal welfare seriously." However, despite horrific animal suffering in its supply chain, it has refused to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment.
“These scientific measures are backed by over 40 animal protection charities from across Europe. Bred to grow so fast their bodies can’t keep up, ‘FrankenChickens’ sold at Morrisons are living lives of misery. It’s time for change.
“When will Morrisons hold true to their word and take this issue seriously?”
What’s the Better Chicken Commitment?
The Better Chicken Commitment is a “science-based chicken welfare policy that addresses issues related to breeding for fast-growth and high-yield, housing, stocking density, and slaughter”.
The policy states that by 2026, suppliers who have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment will have to meet the following requirements for 100 per cent of the fresh, frozen and processed chicken in the supply chain:
- Comply with all EU animal welfare laws and regulations, regardless of the country of production
- Implement a maximum stocking density of 30kg/m2 or less. Thinning is discouraged and if practiced must be limited to one thin per flock
- Adopt breeds that demonstrate higher welfare outcomes: either the following breeds, Hubbard Redbro (indoor only), JACY57, JA757, 787, 957, or 987, Rambler Ranger, Ranger Classic, and Ranger Gold, or others that meet the criteria of the RSPCA Broiler Breed Welfare Assessment Protocol.
- Meet improved environmental standards including at least 50 lux of light (including natural light), at least two metres of usable perch space, and two pecking substrates, per 1,000 birds and no cages or multi-tier systems
- Adopt controlled atmospheric stunning using inert gas or multi-phase systems, or effective electrical stunning without live inversion
- Demonstrate compliance with the above standards via third-party auditing and annual public reporting on progress towards this commitment
More than 200 leading food companies across Europe have adopted the Better Chicken Commitment, including Ikea, Pret, Marks & Spencer, KFC, Wagamama and Nestle.
Where and when are the protests taking place?
Protests are set to take place across the UK from today (Sunday 15 August), at Morrisons stores in Sheffield, Manchester, Dundee, Bristol, London, Liverpool, Reading and more.
Doug Maw, a Morrisons employee, claims that he is facing disciplinary action for taking part in the animal welfare campaign. Maw is leading protests around the country following an investigation into the alleged issues regarding the supermarket’s chicken supply chain.
Maw claims that Morrisons told him that social media posts he had shared regarding the campaign were inappropriate.
He said: “I’ve been a passionate advocate for animal welfare for decades. Morrisons has made me feel unwelcome as a member of staff and questioned my commitment to the company for putting my values first.
“I believe we all have a responsibility to hold the companies we work for to account, and encourage them to do better. That’s how we move things forward. When I saw for myself just how bad the conditions are in the recent investigation, I knew I had to do something bigger, and that’s why I’m exercising my rights to protest today.”
What has Morrisons said?
On the Morrisons website, it states that the supermarket works hard to “continually improve the standards and reporting of animal health and welfare in our own supply chain and through our third party supplier network”.
The Morrisons animal welfare policy statement says: “Ensuring every animal in our supplier network is treated with care and respect and is content.”
Following the allegations from campaigners, Morrisons revealed that it has launched an investigation into claims being made.
Regarding the investigation, Morrisons said: “We care deeply about animal welfare and require all our suppliers to maintain the highest standards. We have asked [the supplier] Cranswick to conduct a full investigation and report back to us.”
Cranswick, the supplier that was filmed in the Open Cages investigation, responded to the footage.
A spokesperson said: “We have been made aware of footage of our farms, filmed by Open Cages, following on from a number of separate incursions.
"The film shows a small number of our chickens suffering on farms operated by Cranswick and these birds should have been removed as part of our standard high welfare procedures.
"The team at Cranswick would like to apologise for the recent footage. We have investigated this thoroughly both internally and with the support of unannounced external audits.
“Whilst we are confident that the occurrences are isolated we have identified procedural improvements to our farming system that have been implemented to significantly reduce the likelihood of an issue occurring in the future."
They added: "We are extremely proud of our long-standing reputation for maintaining excellent standards of animal welfare across the business, and this will always be our top priority.
"All of our chicken farms operate to the accredited standards of the Red Tractor mark and have a long-standing track record of excellent independent audit results. We also frequently review and invest in projects that further enhance welfare such as our recent introduction of in shed hatching for all of the chickens we grow."
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